Great Health Guide


Tinnitus becomes permanent when loud noises damage hearing

- Dr David McIntosh

Everyone will, at some stage in their lifetime, experience a ringing noise in their ears. We call this noise ‘tinnitus’. There are many causes of tinnitus, some serious, but most are not. There are also different types of tinnitus, but I am just going to focus on the ringing type for today.


When it comes to tinnitus there are a few things that are important to understand and appreciate. The first is that tinnitus may well be normal in certain circumstan­ces. For example, it is normal to have tinnitus

after exposure to loud noise such as a night club or concert. That ringing noise will soon settle. What is important to understand though is that such tinnitus is a symptom of noise damage and repeated episodes may lead to permanent tinnitus. The tinnitus becomes permanent because the noise damages the hearing. This means you do not hear the outside noises so well, which leads to the inside noise that is tinnitus being more noticeable.

The second thing to appreciate about tinnitus is that having it just in one ear is a warning sign to many serious problems. One sided tinnitus may or may not be associated with other symptoms of inner ear dysfunctio­n such as associated one sided hearing loss, or problems with the balance. There may also be a feeling of pressure or fullness or blockage within the ear. Such associated symptoms increase the possibilit­y of a significan­t and potentiall­y serious cause of the tinnitus.


1. Meniere’s disease: one of them is a condition called Meniere’s disease. This is associated with balance problems and varying degrees of hearing loss. It is a condition that may require medication and sometimes surgery but unfortunat­ely has a poor prognosis in severe cases in that the hearing in the affected ear may end up being lost completely.

2. Tumour growth on the nerve:

another condition of concern is a tumour. This tumour grows on the nerve to the inner ear and it may only have tinnitus in one ear as its presenting symptom. It may also cause problems with the hearing and balance and could cause paralysis of the nerve to the face and may even cause pressure and swelling on the brain. As drastic as this may sound, fortunatel­y most of the tumours end up being benign and we may often advise patients not to worry and we will just monitor them.

Tinnitus is a symptom and not a

diagnosis. It is important to see if there is a serious cause and this will often require an assessment by an audiologis­t and a review by an ENT Specialist and very often an MRI scan to look at the inner ear and nerve connecting it to the brain.

Tinnitus becomes permanent because the noise damages hearing. ONE SIDED TINNITUS.

Dr David McIntosh is a Paediatric ENT Specialist with a particular interest in airway obstructio­n, facial and dental developmen­t and its relationsh­ip to ENT airway problems and middle ear disease. He also specialise­s in sinus disease and provides opinions on the benefit of revision of previous sinus operations. Dr McIntosh can be contacted via this website.

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